Can Being Vegan Really Reduce Carbon Emissions From The Food You Eat?

Can Being Vegan Really Reduce Carbon Emissions From The Food You Eat?

Last year, more people participated in Veganuary than ever before. More than 582,000 people from 209 countries joined, breaking all previous records.

Almost half said animals were their main motivation, and personal health was the second most popular reason. The environment came in third with 21 percent of respondents saying they decided to try going vegan for the good of the planet.

This year, the organizers of this 31-day vegan pledge urge people to “take climate action into their own hands” after COP26 “addresses the contribution of animal agriculture to the climate crisis.”

As thousands of people try to navigate this diet change, some will turn to outright alternatives to their favorite foods. The more adventurous could try creating their meals from scratch, perhaps substituting minced meat for lentils, creating alternatives to cashew cream, or making chickpea burgers.

But where do the ingredients for these alternative options come from?

Is vegan food more sustainable than locally sourced meat?

Researchers, farmers, dietitians and nutritionists are divided on the issue.

“A 2018 Oxford University study found that a vegan diet is the most effective way to reduce our environmental footprint,” says Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for The Vegan Society.

“Even the researcher himself went vegan, as he could not find a sustainable way to raise animals.”

According to the UN, industrialized animal husbandry accounts for at least 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. Beef and soybeans, most of which are used to feed animals, are the biggest contributors to habitat loss and deforestation. says WWF.

“Shopping locally and seasonally is important, but it pales in comparison to the impact it can have by changing the types of food you eat,” adds Piasecka.

Unsurprisingly, the farmers disagree. In the UK, where Veganuary started, theNational Union of Farmers (NFU), has in the past opposed the campaign saying it is working to reduce emissions.

British farmers are quick to point out that their practices are among the most sustainable on Earth. Agriculture accounts for around 10 per cent of the UK’s total emissions, according to a DEFRA Report 2019.

The NFU has also committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040, a target it says is more ambitious than the UK government’s own target for 2050.

“We aspire to produce the most climate-friendly food in the world,” said Minette Batters, president of the NFU.

“With countries around the world still making plans on how to deal with the climate crisis, the NFU is already working with farmers, the government and other stakeholders to help bring British agriculture to net zero by 2040. ”.

Farmers often point to the location of their produce as one of the main reasons why a sustainable option should be considered. And for consumers in Europe and North America, it may be true that common alternatives to meat, fish, eggs and dairy can add up for miles quickly.

Can a vegan diet have plus Miles of food?

“Many of the most popular plant proteins, including chickpeas, lentils and chia seeds, have to take gas-guzzling trips to get to our plates,” nutritional therapist and wellness writer. Eva killeen tells Euronews Living.

Jackfruit, for example, has become a popular substitute for pulled pork. But while much of the pork consumed in the EU comes from the EU, jackfruit is often grown in eastern regions of Asia.

Lentils commonly sit for ground meat, but require sunny climates and a warm summer to grow efficiently, which is why they are often imported from regions such as North Africa or the Middle East.

It’s a similar story with the storm of vegan alternatives to cheese hitting supermarket shelves over the past year. In 2018 there were 23 million dairy cows in the EU and a plethora of plants nearby for processing into dairy products.

But many of the cow-free alternatives are made with coconut oil, which requires a warm tropical climate to grow and is often imported from Pacific regions.

Even the very popular Beyond Burger, made primarily from yellow pea protein, has only just started manufacturing its products in Europe.

“This doesn’t have to be the case, as we can very easily get the protein we need from locally grown plant sources,” adds Killeen.

“For example, a simple whole-grain pasta dish made with spelled provides 7g of protein. Adding a few peas as a garnish provides an additional 9g per cup, which is more protein than you will find in a cup of milk.”

Plant-based, but local

The most widespread concern around veganism is where to find sources of plant protein. Getting the recommended 55.5 g per day for men and 45 g for women can already be a struggle for some, as the influx of high-protein foods in supermarkets shows.

But there are plenty of other homegrown sources, although it could mean changing the kinds of things we usually eat.

“We have a surplus of broad beans here in the UK, and they are generally exported to North and East Africa where they are a popular choice for breakfast at fūl medames,” says Vice President of Legumes UK, James Maguire. Fūl medames is a savory stew, full of vegetables and spices.

“Fava beans are very green to grow, since no fertilizer is applied to them and they return nitrogen to the soil. They are also efficient in the use of water and legumes in general contain at least twice as much protein as whole grains.”

The UK also has a surplus of large blue peas, which we could try to use more in the kitchen. They work well in curries, soups, and stews, depending on Hodmedod – one of the few producers of lentils, chickpeas and quinoa in the UK.

Simply increasing our vegetable intake could also go a long way in reducing our food miles.

The health of the planet versus your health

If you’re not trying Veganuary for the planet or animals, you’ve likely tried it for your health.

While there are many people with a passion for plants who are happy to share their tips for maintaining a well-balanced diet, some of the specialists we spoke to didn’t feel the same way.

“The strong impact of intensive meat production on the environment has become evident in recent years,” says the food and nutrition consultancy Joy skipper.

“But expecting everyone to switch to a vegan diet seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to a problem, with an outcome that can be just as bad: highly processed and highly packaged vegan products, low-nutrient foods, nutrient-deficient diets. leading to long-term chronic disease. “

“What all the studies used in the review seem to assume is that all vegans will eat a diet rich in fresh local ingredients, based on fresh legumes, vegetables and fruits, and cook these ingredients from scratch,” he adds.

“When the reality, as can be seen from the rise in vegan products over the last decade, is that a large number of people who go vegan do not cook their own food, but buy highly processed foods.”

She says that these foods may have been produced abroad, from crops grown on land that was previously covered in forests and then flew around the world to hit the shelves of our supermarkets.

SpecialistdietaryNichola Ludham-Raine do you agree.

“The iron found in meat, particularly red meat, is known as heme-iron and is better absorbed than the iron found in plants like beans and legumes,” he says.

“In addition to protein, iron and vitamin B12, meat and fish also provide zinc, which contributes to the normal function of the immune system and aids normal fertility and reproduction, and potassium, which contributes to the normal function of muscles and nerves and helps maintain normal blood pressure. “

“Eating locally sourced meat and poultry is one thing you can do to help the planet by reducing air miles,” concludes Ludham-Raine.

Whatever your point of view, what is not in doubt is that the average consumer should eat less meat. Plant-based or not, it shouldn’t be that difficult to eat seasonally and get all the nutrition we need from sources not far from our doorsteps.

“These are the types of options that must they are all starting to make use of it to cope with the nightmare of escalating climate change, “concludes Killeen, the plant champion.


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